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Is an ace lead OK bridge?

Whether or not to lead an unsupported ace [ie ace without the king] against a suit slam is very finely judged. You’d tend to at Duplicate Pairs – fail to do so and you might never make the ace and giving away that overtrick is serious at Pairs (no big deal at other forms of the game). On the other hand, you’d tend not to lead an unsupported ace when you had other slower chances of winning tricks – such as West on today’s deal from OK Bridge.

South Deals
None Vul
J 10 6
A K 4
Q 7 3 2
Q 8 2
Q J 10 8 5 3
A 8
K 10 7 3
W   E
8 4 3
9 7 2
J 9 6 4
J 9 4
A K Q 7 5 2
K 10 5
A 6 5
West North East South
2  3 NT Pass 5 1
Pass 6 2 All pass  
  1. South loves his five-loser hand, with self-supporting spades, a singleton in the opposing hearts and both minors controlled.
  2. Doesn’t like his shape, but North has the two top hearts, two spade honours and at least one of those minor-suit queens rated to be useful. In fact both proved to be gold-dust.

Had West led the ace (and a second) diamond, declarer, Yorkshire’s Simon Stocken, would have had a comfortable ride in his 6 . He’d win the second diamond cheaply in hand, draw trumps, cash the third diamond, then cross to the ace-king of hearts to cash the fourth diamond. Three diamond tricks in addition to six spades, two hearts and the ace of clubs would give him 12 tricks and slam made.

When West led the queen of hearts, declarer had a much tougher ride – he cannot win three diamond tricks without West leading the ace. Watch him pull it off using very elegant Partial Elimination Technique.

Winning the king of hearts, declarer cashed the ace throwing a club, ruffed the third heart (eliminating the suit), then drew two rounds of trumps (with the jack and ace). When West discarded (a heart) on the second, he refrained from drawing the third trump, as he needed a (high) trump in dummy.

At trick six declarer led a low diamond to dummy’s queen (West necessarily ducking), then a diamond back to his ten and ace. Had West held a small diamond remaining. the 3-3 split would have netted declarer a third diamond trick via a long card in dummy.

Here the diamonds were not 33 but, hearts eliminated, West found himself endplayed. A club could be won by dummy’s queen whilst a fourth heart (West’s actual choice) enabled declarer to ruff (high) in dummy whilst discarding his remaining small club from hand. It was now a simple matter to cross to his ace of clubs, draw East’s last trump and claim his slam.

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